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Elmhurst Park District experiences technical difficulties with registration

Elmhurst Park District Executive Director Jim Rogers remarks on the technology glitch experienced with program registration Feb. 24 during the Feb. 26 Board of Commissioners meeting.
Elmhurst Park District Executive Director Jim Rogers remarks on the technology glitch experienced with program registration Feb. 24 during the Feb. 26 Board of Commissioners meeting.

ELMHURST – People registering for the Elmhurst Park District's spring 2018 recreation programs experienced long waiting times on the first day of registration Feb. 24 in a technical glitch the district's executive director, Jim Rogers, has said is "not acceptable."

On Feb. 24, the Park District's processing capacity allotted for registration based upon the specifications provided by vendor Vermont Systems went up to 100 percent instead of the predicted 50 percent, officials said.

"When everybody's online registering at 8 o'clock in the morning, it should go lickety-split," Rogers said in a phone call Feb. 28. "It should run right away. People should be able to get in, sign up, pay, get their receipt and be done."

Instead, the district's central processing unit "spiked right up" to 100 percent, and once it reached 100 percent, it started to slow down because it was trying to push beyond 100 percent, Rogers said.

Rogers and Director of Information Technology Allison Wiggins said in the first minute or so of an average online registration, the central processing unit gets up to about 80 percent for the hundreds of households that seek to check out at 8 a.m.

With the slowdown, the whole process for online registration for Park District programs for the community took about 2.5 hours instead of the predicted half hour, Rogers said. At one point, 25 people were lined up inside the Wagner Community Center outside the in-person registration desk, he said.

Staff troubleshooted and spent about three hours on the phone with the software's emergency technical support line to try to figure out what was causing the challenge, Rogers said at the Feb. 26 Park District Board of Commissioners meeting. Rec Trac is the software Vermont Systems developed for the online registration.

However, the system was working the whole time, and by the end of Feb. 24, almost 1,100 households had registered for more than 4,900 programs, Rogers said at the meeting.

"We are not minimizing the problems. The amount of time that it took to process is not acceptable, but the one positive mitigating factor is that people were able to sign up for programs," he said. "It just took an unacceptably long amount of time to do so."

Rogers said at the meeting that the district is working to add staff and classes to accommodate people on waitlists.

The Park District started using Rec Trac with Vermont Systems in about 2016. It was a new vendor and new product for the district at that time. In the first day of the first registration season it was used, the processing time was "much slower than it should have been," Rogers said in a phone interview Feb. 28.

"The staff and board worked very diligently ... with the contractor to get the bugs worked out, the kinks worked out, and we successfully were able to do that," he said.

Those measures included upgrading hardware and increasing bandwidth and speed.

Rogers said at the meeting the Park District then went through seven seasons of registration without issues before the Feb. 24 issue, so staff had "no reason" to expect what occurred Feb. 24.

The issue is "very similar" to the issue the district experienced in 2016, so Rogers said Feb. 28 he is questioning if the vendor can meet the needs of the Elmhurst community.

He said that at this point, the district will determine what caused the issue Feb. 24, get it addressed and figure out whether it can continue to use the vendor and the software.

"We understand that this can't happen, and so we're going to do everything we can to ensure that it does not happen again," Rogers said.

Registration for the next season begins May 5, he said.

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